Title: Susie B. Won’t Back Down
Author: Margaret Finnegan
Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 272
I absolutely LOVED Margaret Finnegan’s novel We Could Be Heroes, and although Susie B. Won’t Back Down lacks that book’s emotional resonance it’s still a pretty good read with an entertainingly verbose protagonist. For a school project, Susie is writing letters to her hero Susan B. Anthony. Susie is bright and fiercely idealistic but her ADHD makes it hard for her to be an exemplary student.
Sick of the ‘usual geniuses’ getting everything on a silver platter while people like her and her fellow ‘butterfly brain’ friend Carson are ignored, Susie decides to run for student counsel president. But then she finds out that Susan B. Anthony wasn’t the amazing person she thought she was. In fact, she was somewhat self-serving and racist and she made it harder for Black people to achieve their civil rights.
As someone who is an idealist and a bit of a black-and-white thinker, how can Susie cope with this new understanding of her hero? Is holding on to your ideals worth it at all in a world that only continues to disappoint you? Susie B. Won’t Back Down is written in fun, conversational epistolary style and Susie is a chatty and high-energy narrator.
Her affinity for hyperbole gives the stories she tells a sense of heightened reality. I did find this book to be a little more juvenile than We Could Be Heroes, and I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was younger. I really liked Susie but at the same time her voice could get a little repetitive and irritating after a while.
I really liked how this book dealt with the subject of how to respond when your heroes disappoint you. I don’t think I’ve ever read a middle grade book with a main character who struggled with that. It’s something that stays disappointingly relevant amid #Metoo accusations and the racist skeletons in the closets of our idols. I thought the author handled it really well and it made Susie a more relatable character. I’m thoroughly anticipating Margaret Finnegan’s next book, New Kids and Underdogs.
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